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Our Multan team continued to slide down in terms of team cohesion, team work and team performance. We had not become a ‘manager’ as yet, but we had our views on management. I do not remember how right or wrong our thinking was, but we had some deep thinking anyway.
I would like to look back and re-examine why a good, strong team fell apart. We start by seeing what made us into a ‘team’.
Common Agenda: We followed the same purpose. We wanted to perform and achieve/exceed sales targets. We also wanted to excel in meetings. We supported one another even if we had to go out of the way. I mentioned earlier that I traveled to Multan from Bahawalpur on most weekends. It was not official, the AM did not instruct this, and I didn’t charge it to company. It was a personal effort to keep connected and it was acknowledged and appreciated.
Our individual achievements were never hidden, these were highlighted by our AM. Interestingly, the team highlighted team performance, and the team leader highlighted individual performances. It was a mutually satisfying arrangement.
Couple of people who joined later, thought differently. They were loners and did not believe in team work/ performance/ achievement. For them, their ‘own’ was more important than ‘team’. Loners do not wish to participate in team work. They may be high achievers, but not team players. That hit the root of our team and damaged it.
Matching Competence: It is rare (and impractical) that all members of a team would have same level of competence. However, it is imperative that all members are above the baseline, and if anyone is below it, he/she must be pulled up. Our AM was very good at that. He always followed it and asked us to take everyone together. The result was that no one felt left out, and it inculcated great team spirit.
If there is too much variance in team members profile, it creates unhealthy disparity and negative competition. Anyone who cannot compete on work will try to find some way to sabotage others. Healthy competition is when we strive to get better and better to out-compete others. Competition turns severely negative when the effort is to destroy others; not build own self.
Our team gelled well despite disparity. However, new colleagues considered themselves to be superior and refused to mix up with others. Some other themes might have been playing as well.
Similar Values: We might not have been actively discussing it at that time, but it was certainly an ongoing theme. If the team members carry similar values, they will more quickly transform into a team as compared to when they carry different values. There is now a large body of research and literature on the importance of having shared values. Values create culture, culture determines engagement, and engagement leads to average or excellent performance.
Our team carried similar values and our team culture was built around these. When someone came with a different set of values and insisted on carrying them, it gradually eroded the team culture.
Everyone Performs: Our running theme was that everyone must perform. We did support each other and sometimes compensated if a colleague could not achieve. However, it was understood that this support was in the interest of the team performance; not for the false achievement of an individual. There was a positive peer pressure on all of us and it helped and motivated us.
A loner would care about his performance only. He would rather highlight lesser performance of other(s).
These were the major factors which led to the downfall of an excellent team, and everyone lost. The AMs at that time were not given management training, their seniors didn’t get either. Managers were promoted and expected to learn the ‘management’ by their own effort. I observed that most new managers simply copied their previous managers in the beginning. They also sought active guidance from them. Later, some developed their own insight and came into their own; others continued replicating.
Team dynamics and leadership are now regular part of management training. But the teams are larger, and leadership has many tiers, and the challenge for trainers and practitioners is bigger and more complex……